Our Stories

This page is for you to share your own story of why you believe and are committed to God’s Dream of inclusion and love for all.   If you’d like your story posted please email it to us and let us know if you want your name included with it.  May the telling and the listening bring us closer to that Dream. 

1.

I’ve known her since she wore Umbro shorts, had big glasses, and smiled with crooked teeth. She’s known me since before I knew who I wanted to be. We called each other “BFFs” (Best Friends Forever). We had bracelets to match. 

We played Barbies. We rode bikes. We experimented with her dad’s cigarettes. At times, it feels that we have known each other forever. I can only vaguely remember a time when she was not in my life, when I wasn’t running over to her house to play in the ditch behind it, or climb up to her tree-house, to watch The Babysitters Club or Little Women on VHS. We were there for the awkward years. I waited for her when she left me behind for her cooler friends. I knew she wouldn’t stay gone forever. She was a year older, a big deal in the 6th and 7th grade. I saw her as golden. She was older and in my mind, wiser, she went to a school I didn’t go to, she had blonde hair and tan skin, something I coveted. I mean, she had a tree-house. How much cooler can you get? 

She served as my keeper a lot of times, keeping me from the wrath of my mother. I was a smart-mouth. I was stubborn. She knew how to calm me down, keep me in line, but most importantly, keep me from getting grounded. In college, we began to grow apart. We were across the state from each other, but there were times when I felt like I could look out the window and see her standing there with a wide, slightly mischievous grin, asking: “Can you play?” There would be particular days that I felt an overwhelming desire to hear her voice, to make sure she was okay. She never fully left me. We were pulled apart by distance, by separate interests, and friends, but we were still bound by something I can’t exactly put into words. 

One day, in my sophomore year of college and her junior year, she told me. She looked at me and said she had been seeing a girl. Suddenly it all clicked. We had lost track for a while and things seemingly had changed between us. I knew deep down she was struggling with something, but I couldn’t figure out what. When she told me, “I’m gay.” It all made sense. There are many people who view being gay as a sort of death sentence, a death to a real life in the light, to family, to Christian identity. Many people view “gay” as synonymous with “lost.” I disagree. When she told me, everything fell in to place. She seemed happier, brighter, like a weight had been lifted from her shoulders. I felt it too. She had been living under the burden of society for so long. She had kept this secret because in her world, gay was unacceptable. Gay was “unnatural.” I saw God in her that day. I saw love fill her heart. I saw the beginning of true acceptance. She was growing up. And so was I. 

 

2. 

I have two lesbian aunts who are legally married in Massachusetts.  They are deeply spiritual people who underwent a commitment ceremony in a UCC (United Church of Christ) church.  

Both, though, had a long and painful journey to where they are now: 

Nance got married twice because she wanted so desperately to “fit in”, to conform to society’s expectations. 

Lynne said, “I just didn’t have a clue…I had feelings I couldn’t explain but dismissed them as lying on a continuum of sexuality”.  She was 35 before she fully acknowledged that she couldn’t live in an authentic way in her marriage.

 Lynne and Nancy found one another and raised children from their previous marriages together.  Lynne:  “I love my soul mate…I’ve never connected with anyone at this depth before my relationship with Nancy.  It’s more than just love, it’s a soul-connection.”  

Lynne:  “Lesbians love who they love…there’s nothing sinful about that.  There’s nothing sinful about loving one another.”  

Nancy’s parents are conservative Christians, who deeply disapproved of their relationship, but over the years, after seeing how happy and contented their daughter is, have come to accept it and even express gratitude for it.  They now acknowledge that Nancy is who she was meant to be, and with the person she was MEANT to be with: Lynne. 

They talk and communicate about everything…everything.  They interact in a teasing manner that’s good-natured.  They accept each other’s differences and agree to disagree, but remain committed to each other. 

I asked Lynne and Nancy what they’d want to say to our Annual Conference.  They said: “Just accept people for whoever they are, as they are.”

 

3. 

I’m a pastor in the Mississippi Annual Conference, and my congregation knows I’m open-minded. Because of this, lots of different church folk have come up to tell me about family members who are gay (or who they always wondered about), co-workers who are gay, or their daughter’s best friend growing up, who now is gay and lives with her wife. 

Absolutely none of these church members condemned these family members, co-workers, or friends! I was a little awe-struck. My congregants had heard that being gay was wrong, but nothing struck them as wrong about these valued people in their lives. I pray that we will one day have a Book of Discipline that reflects the feelings and experiences of my congregants. 

 

4. 

In 2003, I had an interesting conversation with another ordained Elder in the UMC from another state.  I met Bob a few years back at a seminar in the Northeast U.S.  He was in his early sixties.  As we sat through this seminar, we talked about the ministry.  As we got to know each other better, we shared our personal stories, as well as our family stories.  When he shared about his family, he beamed with pride about his son, Robert and his daughter, Kate.  He also mentioned that his daughter was gay, and that he loved her partner, Jan, like she was his second daughter.  They went on family vacations all together.  They did life “together”.  He saw God’s grace working through every relationship in his family.  He got quite emotional about it.  

A few years later, right after Hurricane Katrina hit South Mississippi, he called me and asked me where he could help.  He brought several folks down to serve for a week.  But tragedy struck.  He had a massive heart attack.  I got a call from a member of his team.  He would be kept on life support, but his prognosis was grim.  I drove down from central Mississippi to be with him.  I will never forget those moments in that room.  Just before the family made the decision to take him off life support—we grabbed hands.  We made a circle, and we prayed.  Who was in that circle?  Bob’s wife, Robert, Kate, me, the nurse, Bob, and—yes—Jan, all holding hands and giving thanks for this man’s life.  

What would it look like if we, the church, embraced and included all God’s children—gay and straight?  What if we treated every child of God as if he or she was our own?  What if we encouraged and blessed fidelity in all life-long relationships?  What if fear was overcome by love for all? What if the church made room for one more in the circle?  What if. 

 

5. 

As a youth minister, I’ve had kids in my youth group who have come out as gay. They are awesome kids! And I’ve loved being their youth minister. Those who have come out as gay have really come into an adult part of themselves. They are realizing who they are attracted to, who they love, and what kind of people they want to spend their lives with. It’s great to see them understand their relationships better. All over the country, I meet Methodist youth who are totally fine with having gay friends, and they don’t see any harm in being a gay or lesbian person. They know that the Bible can be used as a weapon against anyone, so they don’t worry about reconciling the Bible with their experience in the world—they know the gospel is ultimately about love.

As a youth minster, the consequences of bigotry worry me: A huge amount of homeless youth in our country are gay, lesbian, or transgender. They are kicked out of their homes and families for being their true selves. Because their caretakers reject them, they live on the streets. Black and brown gay youth are especially at risk for rejection and homelessness.

I love working with youth, because their hearts and minds are open and full of the Spirit. I wish all of their parents and grandparents were the same way.

 

6.

One of my best friends recently left the United Methodist Church. He was young, kind, highly educated, and in the ordination process. He also happened to be gay. I knew him even before he came out of the closet, and I was proud to be his friend and stand by his side as he came to know himself better, as part of a group of friends who loved and supported him for who he was. The South can be especially difficult for gay and lesbian young persons. There’s always the chance of being verbally and physically abused by random strangers, rejected by your family and friends, and condemned by long-time church members.

I was sad to hear of his leaving the UMC and pursuing ordination in a different denomination, but I wasn’t too surprised. Young people like myself and my friend are less willing to put sexuality in the closet than previous generations. We live in a world where Ellen DeGeneres has a daytime talk show and the songs of Queen are played at every sports game. We have openly gay congressmen in office, and we watch news anchors (who happen to be open about being gay or lesbian) give us the latest updates. We have gay friends, gay family members, gay classmates, and gay ministers. It’s a normal part of our lives.

“Love does no wrong to a neighbor, therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” What young folks realize is that our gay and lesbian friends aren’t hurting anyone by loving their wives, husbands, and partners. Love does no harm. Love makes the world a better place. In the end, I’m glad my friend is now able to love openly, but I wish he could have loved openly in my church. The UMC is really missing out.

 

7. 

Carl was my roommate in seminary. Raised Pentecostal, he grew up hating so much the feelings inside of him that told him he was gay. He had been told it was a horrible sin, and he felt really guilty. He prayed that God get rid of his feelings, and when he finally told his church leaders, they sent him to “reparative” therapy, in an attempt to “fix” his homosexual feelings. Nothing changed, and because of the shame he felt, Carl tried to kill himself.

Thankfully, he wasn’t successful. Carl became one of my best friends in seminary, and he’s the most Spirit-filled preacher I know. He truly knows God personally, and he’s more in touch with the Holy Spirit than I may ever be. Now, Carl thanks God for giving him the gift of his sexuality. He now preaches God’s good news of love and welcome to gay and lesbian Christians in Louisiana. I often wish he was my preacher!

 

8. 

In recent days, I’ve thought a lot about the Church and a lot about people that I know and care about, particularly those who are different than me, whose opinion is different than mine, whose sexual orientation is different than mine, whose theology is different than mine, whose personality is different than mine, who understand vocation differently than I do, who express themselves differently than I express myself, and those whose experience of life and understanding of God is different than my own.

 I am who I am because of a family who loved me unconditionally—parents who chose a community of faith that nurtured and challenged me.  For the last 30 years, I’ve spent the majority of my time in that church – or some extension of it.  I did not make it; it is making me. 

The Church that is making me, is a church that…

 – Is committed to surrounding God’s people with a community of love and forgiveness that each might come to know the redeeming love of God in Jesus Christ.

– invites children to play, to experience the abundant life that Jesus Christ offers.

– provides opportunities for me to encounter God in a home in the woods of Copiah County – with a “family” that prayed , engaged the Word of God in scripture, played games, explored creation, and hunted for “snipe” in the wee hours of the night.

– sees in me gifts that I do not see in myself – and offers me opportunities to use those gifts for the glory of God while growing into my leadership potential.

– challenges me to explore places and ideas beyond my “comfort zone” – to climb rocks, raft rivers, explore canyons, rappel down mountains, on long van rides singing, summer afternoons in the pool and conversations about education, taxes, and politics

– takes me to the inner city and introduces me to friends who share a love of life and a faith in God, but who look different than me and have fewer economic resources than my family.

– practices holy conferencing, by introducing topics that engage heart, soul and mind and inviting everyone to learn from one another as we share our perspectives and understandings.

– introduces me to the world – beyond my hometown, beyond Mississippi, beyond the United States

– teaches the value of good questions and encourages lots of questions – lots of good, hard questions.

– values diversity – embracing each person’s unique gifts while holding our shared center in Jesus.

– expects me to accept the love of God and neighbor, that I might grow beyond my greatest potential.

– embodies the unconditional grace of God as expressed in the life of Jesus the Christ – a young man who surrounded himself with friends who encouraged and challenged him, reached out to those whom society ignored, lived in constant communion with God, and gave his very life for the redemption of humanity. 

This church has not reached perfection, nor have I.  But, together with others in need of God’s redeeming grace, we are moving toward perfection. We cannot be perfected apart, we can only be perfected together.   By God’s grace, we will be perfected in love as we learn to embrace one another – in spite of our many differences – with God’s unconditional love.

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